Cubs trade lefty Drew Smyly to Rangers in deal to offset cost of Cole Hamels
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Whatever the Cubs decide to do this winter to fix their offense or bolster their bullpen, consider their work on the starting rotation done.
The Cubs locked in their 2019 rotation intentions Friday by exercising the $20 million option on four-time All-Star left-hander Cole Hamels’ contract — but not before making a salary-dump trade to help offset the cost.
With their 2019 payroll expected to spike to a franchise-record level well above $200 million, the Cubs sent left-hander Drew Smyly and his $7 million salary to the Rangers in a two-for-one trade that included a player to be named on each side.
The Cubs acquired Hamels from the Rangers in July, along with cash that included $6 million to cover the buyout on Hamels’ option had they chosen not to exercise it.
The deal recoups that cash and provides the Rangers with a veteran pitcher who returned from Tommy John surgery last season to perform effectively in a brief rehab assignment.
Hamels, 34, went 4-3 with a 2.36 ERA in 12 starts for the Cubs after the trade.
The Cubs dealt from an area of depth. Their projected starting rotation for next season features Hamels, left-hander Jon Lester, right-hander Kyle Hendricks, left-hander Jose Quintana and right-hander Yu Darvish.
Add to that left-hander Mike Montgomery, who performed especially well in an extended run in the rotation last season, and right-hander Tyler Chatwood, who figures to be a trade candidate by the end of spring training.
Despite widespread speculation that the Cubs will dive again into the deep end of the free-agent market this winter, their projected payroll — calculated for luxury-tax purposes — already exceeds $204 million (counting projected salaries of arbitration-eligible players). That’s before adding pre-arbitration salaries and annual player-benefit obligations.
The 2019 threshold to avoid paying penalties is $206 million.
NOTES: The Cubs claimed infielder Jack Reinheimer, 26, off waivers from the Mets. Primarily a shortstop throughout his pro career, he was 5-for-35 with 12 strikeouts in short big-league stints the last two seasons with the Diamondbacks and Mets.
• Meeting the deadline for procedural roster moves, the Cubs reinstated four players from the 60-day disabled list: pitchers Darvish, Brandon Morrow and Justin Hancock and outfielder Mark Zagunis. They also outrighted outfielder Terrance Gore and infielder Mike Freeman off the 40-man roster, which stands at 39.
• The Cubs didn’t extend a qualifying offer to reliever Justin Wilson, their only eligible free agent, by the deadline. The Cubs received three compensatory draft picks the last two years when free agents Dexter Fowler (2016), Jake Arrieta (2017) and Wade Davis (2017) rejected qualifying offers, then signed with other teams. Seven players in the majors received qualifying offers ($17.9 million this year).
• Bench coach Brandon Hyde will return to the Cubs’ staff in 2019 after a whirlwind month of managerial interviews.